Highland Park 15, 2003-2018, 1st Fill European Oak Puncheon 1306, 58.1% – OB for the Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland

Longest. Title. Ever.

Anyway, this sherry’d Highland Park sits in my collection, waiting for a moment to be opened. When at Maltstock in 2018, it was used in a tasting by Jon Beach and Tatsuya Minagawa in their ‘Japan vs Scotland’ tasting. I seem to remember this one winning the round.

Luckily, for a proper review, it was also in last year’s Advent Calendar and I got to sit down for it properly.

Quite contrary to most of these private cask bottlings by Highland Park, the IWBOS (Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland, that is) are keeping their casks reasonably affordable. This one went for £ 90, I believe, while similar bottlings for Dutch cask owners often ended up around € 150. Of course, this is now sold out and selling on the secondary market for € 400…

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Wet hay, fruity sweetness. Almost something farmy. Almonds en cherry stones, plums. Cherries, but also something ashy. A grassy ash, burnt leaves. A heathery dryness. Some beeswax, but also a crisp hint of ‘coastalness’. A whiff of licorice toffee.

Sip:
Surprisingly gentle at first, but there is some bite after a while. The slightly sweet sherry cask keeps that in check. Beeswax, heather, oak. A bit sooty, greasy. The bitterness of the almonds and cherry stones is present here too. Later on, the licorice shows up here too, with some bay leaf.

Swallow:
At first it’s pretty fierce but it mellows quickly. It continues with the licorice notes, and some baking spices. Oak, a hint of smoke, dirt.

As far as first fill sherry casks go, this one isn’t overly sweet and that’s a good thing. It gives more room to other flavors and aromas. Especially towards the finish. I like the complexity, and the addition of the slight sootiness, with the waxy notes too. All in all, it combines Highland Park with a whiff of Clynelish and a touch of Caol Ila. Some of my favorite distilleries.

90/100

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A Tennessee Distillery 13, 2003-2017, 50.7% – The Whisky Agency

And now a complete rarity. An undisclosed Tennessee whiskey isn’t too rare, of course, but one bottled by The Whisky Agency, at a decent age, for the Taiwanese market is.

I got a sample of this from Whiskay.com and had to do some digging, since the stated ABV is slightly off (50% stated, but it is 50.7%). Anyway, it’s from a bottling series called ‘APXAΓΓEΛOΣ’, which I have no translation for. Neither does Google Translate, by the way.

I guess there are ways to find out what it all means, but I’m not entirely sure I care enough. Let’s keep it at ‘it’s a bit chaotic’. An American whisky, from a German bottler, with a Greek label for the Taiwanese market. Probably THE most international whisky ever.

Let’s just dive in, because there’s not much else to tell.

Image from Whiskay

Sniff:
Quite an impressive bourbon (tasted blind, so we’re going with bourbon for that) without being overly rich. Dry with corn husks, some grainy and grassy notes too. Brown sugar and spices too.

Sip:
A bit of bite, not too much. There’s oak and golden syrup and spices. A bit of corns husk, grass and woody spices. I suck at identifying spices, but they weren’t the obvious baking spices, there was more too it.

Swallow:
The finish gets a little bit more dry, wiht more oak. It’s not overly long with the molasses and spices again. Brown sugar too.

Interestingly, it’s not rummy even though it has hints of molasses and golden syrup. Even the corn husks could be found in rum, and this is completely different. The spices really add a massive layer of depth and while there’s definitely oak, it’s not overpowering.

It’s like a solid bourbon, but done without the bitterness you normally get from an older one.

89/100

Now, on the hunt for a bottle…

Whiskay.com has samples available

Posted in - American Whiskey, Undisclosed | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fettercairn 18, 1990-2009, Oloroso Quartercask 2902, 50%

I haven’t reviewed many Fettercairn on this blog, and it’s fair to say I haven’t tried many more either. It’s one of those distilleries that used to have a bit of a shitty reputation with their whisky being too funky, too rich and not showing enough depth.

It seems, however, that they’ve been remedying that consensus over the last couple of years, although I’ve not tried many more since that has started to happen. It just never crossed my path, or didn’t catch my fancy when getting bottles for tastings and shares and such.

A while ago, though, I got a sample from whisky friend TT that just said ‘guess’ on it. It took me a while to get around to it, and after tasting it, and then asking what it was, and TT thinking long and hard because he forgot as well, it turned out to be this one. It’s been verified by tasting it again.

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose starts subtle with a light whiff of orchard fruits, on top of heavier, and slightly funky, notes of candied orange and pastry. White grapes, green apples and some fresh barley too. Some grass, wildflowers, and a minor note of vanilla. Some baking spices too. A bit like raisinbread without the raisins.

Sip:
The palate continues down the same lines, but brings some astrigency. Some slate, hessian and straw, but still the green apples. The grapes turn into the slight bitter note of their seeds. A bit of syrupy vanilla, with a floral note too. Orange pulp and pith, oak and barley.

Swallow:
The finish brings a surprising note of acidity, not unlike white wine, but not the lightness. Although, it must be oak aged white wine at that. Apples, grapes, flowers and, once again surprising, a note of charcoal en graphite. The bitter note of the palate turns into grapefruit instead of orange.

It’s a highly complex and interesting dram, and the sherry influence, while present, isn’t too overpowering. Quite different than I’d expect from a quartercask.

I can’t really tell which kind of oak was used because there’s notes of American oak in the grapes, apples and vanilla. It could also be European oak based on the spices and hessian.

Anyway, good whisky, although ‘they’ seem to be a bit more enthusiastic about it than I am.

88/100

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Ben Nevis 24, 1996-2021, Hogshead 1408, 45.6% – Wu Dram Clan

It took some doing and the sample that Wu Dram Clan sent me has now seen more of Europe than I have in the last decade, but eventually it arrived home.

Of course, it was a rather highly anticipated whisky, since it’s a Wu Dram Clan bottling, and it’s a Ben Nevis from 1996! This must be the top scoring vintage for the distillery, much like 1981 is for Lochside, 1972 was for Caperdonich, and if I would think a bit longer and a bit harder, I’d be able to come up with some others too.

Image from Whiskybase

Anyway, Ben Nevis Distillery, at the foot of the mountain of the same name, in Fort William. A distillery I have driven past on several occassions, but have never visited. I would love to, but having to sit through ‘Hector the Giant’, or having no time to do so held me back.

Anyway, a highly anticipated whisky, initially available for € 260, but currently going for at least € 600. It’s been a week since it’s release, after all. Prices are bound to go up if you wait long enough…

Sniff:
The initial wave of citrus is unmistakable. Quite some orange, but heaps of lemons follow that. Some coriander seeds for a bit of spiciness. Somehow, it reminds me of rye whisky, with the citrus and spice combination, but much more gentle and a bit more rich too. A whiff of mint, gentle oak and fresh barley. After half an hour it gets a bit more foresty with ferns and moss.

Sip:
It’s gentle on the arrival, with orange and lemon leading the way again. Fresh grain, freshly cut oak and spices. Even though spices are important (and I’m very bad at indicating which is which) it’s not a harsh whisky at any point. The palate has some vanilla and other orchard fruits (apples and pears), but mostly lemon.

Swallow:
The finish focuses on fresh lemons and a bit of lemon balm more than the palate did. It’s more in line with the nose. Some notes of vanilla and pastry too, with the spices coming back after a couple of seconds. That rye whisky like thing again.

This, dear reader, is an absolute stunner of a dram. I might be a bit more inclined to love this since I love rye whisky, and happen to love most lemon-flavored things too. But, in short, this whisky shows what great Ben Nevis should be like and it shows why the distillery is so popular nowadays. An absolute belter, flavorwise.

92/100

Thanks to Wu Dram Clan for the sample. I should have bought the bottle…

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Redbreast 12, 40% – OB from Bow Street Distillery

In 1971 Bow Street distillery stopped producing. Redbreast didn’t disappear forever, of course. It just stopped being produces for a while. In the mid-90s the brand was relaunched with production of the whiskey happening at Midleton Distillery in County Cork.

So, that means this is quite some old liquid, with it being made in a distillery that hasn’t been producing since ten years before I was born. Rare stuff indeed!

Image from Whiskybase

Now, normal Redbreast is a fine product with their more luxurious versions often being very good whiskey. Let’s find out what they were about, some 40-50 years ago.

Sniff:
Lots of dusty barley, paper and hessian, some stale beer and old oak planks. Sawdust too, but all quite gentle.

Sip:
The palate is a lot more intense than I expected, with a lot more grain, oak and dryness. It takes a while before the typical Irish whiskey sweetness kicks in. Then there’s fruit, some wood spices, wine gums too.

Swallow:
After a swallow the wine gums and the grain linger, with a nice spicy tingle.

With this being bottled at only 40%, it is a lot more intense than I expected. Not harsh, but it does have more impact. I guess old-fashioned distilling techniques make themselves known here.

It’s interesting to see it display some of the more typical Irish Whiskey qualities in being rather grainy and wine gum like, although it’s never too sweet.

88/100

Thanks to MaltMartin for the sample!

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Four Roses Single Barrel 4-1V, 50%

These Single Barrels are always a bit of a lucky shot. As in, Four Roses uses ten different recipes for their bourbons, and I’m not sure if these single barrels are always from a subset or use all ten at semi-random.

What’s also extra confusing is that the ‘single barrel’ is the readily available one, and the ‘small batch barrel strength’ is the one that’s the really rare one. I know of one shop making the mistake at some point, about a decade ago, that sold the SBBS (normally some € 200) for the Single Barrel price of € 35.

Image from Whiskybase

A friend of mine bought the entire stock and then sold one on to me. I was quite happy, as you might imagine.

Anyway, I tried this one a while ago, from a sample I got from MaltMartin, who also added this bottle to Whiskybase. Let’s give it a spin!

Sniff:
It’s rather sweet with a whiff of tobacco. Some dried fruits, corn and lots of oak. Baking spices, apricots, peaches, vanilla pipe tobacco.

Sip:
The palate is a bit of a two way street with sweetness and dry oak. It’s a bit chili peppery, with cinnamon, tropical fruits and a bit tobacco.

Swallow:
The finish is a little bit sharp with hints of chili pepper. Apart from that there’s the same sweetness as on the palate, very oak driven with hints of caramel popcorn.

It’s been ages since I had any of these single barrels, other than this one. If this is the average level of quality they come at, it should be a no-brainer when a new release comes out. It’s a very solid bourbon and although it might not change the world, it sure is one of the best one available at this price point. Highly recommended!

86/100

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Kilkerran 8, Cask Strength Batch 4, Re-charred Oloroso casks, 57.1%

Anything that comes from one of the Springbank brands is going to be popular. When it turns out to be a sherry cask matured something, at cask strength, it’s never going to be on a shelf in a shop until the shops starts increasing the price.

The same happened with this one. It’s now available for € 130 but it used to cost around half of that, if memory serves.

Image from Whiskybase

With me sounding quite cynical in the first paragraph, I should state that I’m also one of these guys that perks up when Springbank releases something new. Unfortunately, nowadays it means one of three things, generally:

  • It’s either sold out by the time I read my email
  • It’s available only in the UK or at Springbank Distillery (which is the same thing)
  • It’s so expensive I won’t even consider getting it for a bottle share.

Of course, who’s to blame there. I understand distilleries taking the easy route. If you don’t have to move stuff abroad to sell it, why do the more work-intensive thing?

If you can ask the world and people are willing to shell out, why would you not make money?

As long as we buy into everything, we’re as much to blame as anyone else.

Aaaaanyway, enough ranting about something that’s barely relevant to this bottle anyway. Sherry matured Kilkerran, at cask strength. What’s not to like?

Sniff:
Very dry and rich, with a lot of that typical ‘Campbeltown (read: Springbank)’ mustiness. Lots of old, dried fruits, with some bitter notes like apple seeds and sour cherry too.

Sip:
The palate is very dry and reasonably sharp. It gets even drier after a few seconds and focuses on the fruity bitterness. Dark cherries, apple seeds, almonds even. Some sulfur, but not in a bad way. Insanely dry.

Swallow:
The finish has a bit of an afterburner, with a lot of heat from the alcohol that lingers. After that, there’s oak, prunes and their stones. Dark cherries too.

Typical for the distillery, but not overly complex and it could have done with a bit more of a gentle touch. It’s a bit harsh over all, with the alcohol and the dryness making it a bit less gentle than I’d like. Still quite a solid dram and one that is unsurprisingly popular.

I’d happily have gone through a bottle of this, but I don’t regret not buying it, is what I’m trying to say.

86/100

Available through links found here.

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Port Charlotte 14, 2004-2019, 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead, 53.4% – Dramfool for Feis Ile 2019

Peat and sherry always works. Almost always at least. And when a dram get vetted for use in Fiddler’s Advent Calendar, you know you’re in for a treat.

Image from Whiskybase

A sample bottle this dark with a lovely whiff of briny smoke coming off it is a great way to close out the night, which is exactly what JP and I did some months ago.

Sniff:
Sulphur, shoe polish, graphite, heavy sherry, barbecue smoke, burnt grease. Roasted grain, like a dry stout. Some red fruits.

Sip:
The palate has some sharpness, but nothing out of the ordinary. A bit of chili pepper, and shoe polish, and leather. Pencil shavings, some sulphur, matches, but also cherry and blackberry. Sunseed oil, bacon.

Swallow:
The finish is surprisingly hot, with red fruits, grilled peaches, spicy sherry. Far less sulphur, more oak. Smoke, greasy barbecues. Strangely, some menthol near the end.

Yes, there are hints of sulphur, and the whisky is better for it. I understand some people’s disdain for it, but sulphur comes in many guises, and this is a good one. It’s the hellfire and brimstone kind, instead of the boiled vegetables kind.

It’s a rich whisky, with many flavors and layers. There definite influence from the smoke, from the distillery’s location, from the cask. And it all works very, very well.

90/100

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Two new rums by The Duchess

The Duchess is at it again! Rather soon after the release of their Australian Beenleigh rum, just a little while ago, they’ve just released two new bottlings! This time, Hans Dillesse painted fish instead of hummingbirds, ducks or a platypus.

The rums are about to be released later today at various shops in Europe and Singapore, but I was lucky enough to get a few samples and taste them, so the review would coincide with the release.

For a change, I actually am on time with this review!


Foursquare 21, 1999-2021, Cask 4, 60.2%

Sniff:
Rather funky and sweet on the nose. Lots of oak, some brimstone and even a hint of pencil, both graphite and cedar. Stewed strawberries, but also something more tropical. More like papaya. Cocoa powder after some time.

Sip:
Intense on the arrival, with its 60%. Bell pepper, oak and some wood shavings. Quite hot, but not uncomfortable, fried chili peppers. Tropical sweetness of papaya, mango. A lot of oak, quite whisky-like in that regard.

Swallow:
The finish is, although quite a bit more oak driven, more typically foursquare. Less funky and a tad sweeter, lots of tropical fruit syrup, molasses.

Foursquare is ridiculously popular in the part of the rum world I can see. And that’s justified. Their rums strike the right balance between funky and sweet, with a lot of great fruitiness that is very well loved by whisky fanatics.

I think this one will be loved by these whisky fans even more, because the prolonged aging has imparted some rather recognizable wood flavors that apparently also mix well with rum.

Very different from regular foursquare, less smooth and sweet, more funky. Lots of oak, and less sugarcane than I expected.

89/100


Great House 13, 2007-2021, Cask 6, 66.9%

Sniff:
Massive on the overripe fruit. Lots of sugary, slightly cloying fruit rot. In a way that you can only like it for it. Vegetal, with sugarcane and grass. Lots of alcohol, obvjously, with a bit of a Mezcal like whiff of smoke. The diesel kind.

Sip:
Insanely strong, with lots of alcohol, which brings a lot of chili pepper heat. Some dry sawdust, a whiff of bitterness. Apple seeds, grape seeds. Later on the actual light fruityness of apple and grape.

Swallow:
Somewhat sweeter than before. More fruity with a bit of a drying sugarcane funk. Hay-like.

“Great House” isn’t a distillery, which results in this being an undisclosed one. Obviously the ABV has some impact, since it’s ridiculously strong. However, the alcohol isn’t all there is and there’s lot of lovely light fruitiness going on, with a bit more funk than the Foursquare.

Much like the Foursquare, it approaches things in its own way, and is all the better for it!

Massive, but very, very good.

89/100


Both rums will be available at Best of Whiskies, Whiskysite, Passie voor Whisky, Zeewijck and Van Zuylen in The Netherlands.

Retail prices are about € 120 for the Foursquare, and € 100 for the Great House. Very acceptably priced, if you ask me!

Thanks a million to The Duchess herself for the samples!

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Laphroaig Cairdeas 12, Feis Ile 2009, 57.5%

An older sample I got somewhere, probably from Tom van Engelen, since he’s recently turned in to a supplier of good Islay whisky from years gone by.

This one is from the Cairdeas (‘friendship, in Gaelic’) range, which is Laphroaig’s Feis Ile / Distillery Only range, which is surprisingly easy to get for something that is supposed to be quite limited. Luckily, this is represented in the price as well, when it’s released.

Of course, this being bottled 12 years ago, it has now ramped up to a jumping off point of € 369, which is quite a bit less ‘easy to get’.

Image from Whiskybase

There’s virtually no information on this one, no cask information or anything. I guess that means it’s a bourbon cask, and the color and palate support that.

Sniff:
Very typical Islay smokiness, backed up by a light, but intense whisky. Very fishy, briny, coastal with lots of salinity, brine, fishing nets and kippers.

Sip:
Here the lighter side shows, before the coastal notes take over. Some dried flowers and straw, but then it’s back to fierce alcohol and smoke. A dry saltiness, fish, iodine and lots of peat smoke.

Swallow:
On the finish, the iodine and band aids show. Quite medicinal, with those typical coastal hints again. True Laphroaig, in overdrive.

This is a true Islay whisky, which made me fall in love with the region all these years ago. It’s almost a Lowlands whisky in style, the straw and grass notes, but with an Islay make over. Harbours, fishing boats, windy beaches at the Atlantic coast.

This is a very solid Laphroaig. Unfortunately it’s ridiculously expensive now.

87/100

Available here.

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